Vlog: Praying in Tongues

Another piece of video that I’d really prefer not to exist. This has never been shown anywhere before – a Leaving Fundamentalism exclusive. It was shot for Video Nation, but never broadcast. I guess I just like embarrassing myself in public.

I had recorded a video response to this. I was in Manchester a couple of weeks ago shooting something for TV, and I ended up talking to them about all the same stuff. They asked me not to put my recent thoughts online until after they broadcast my interview. I could just ignore them, but they asked so nicely that I’ll just post this online. I think it might be a good thing not to have my current thoughts on the video. I don’t have to tell you what to think about it; you’re all capable of drawing your own conclusions.

The continued popularity of praying in tongues among charismatics and pentecostals is interesting, because it’s a fundamentally weird and embarrassing activity. You’ll notice that I didn’t actually pray in tongues in the video, even though I could have. I didn’t feel comfortable doing it in front of anyone who didn’t already pray in tongues themselves.

Even so, among Christians of my sort, you were considered a second-class believer if you didn’t pray in tongues. And I think the explanation for this is in Robert Cialdini’s commitment and consistency principle. The deeper a commitment you’ve made to something, the harder it is to leave. And praying in tongues clearly identifies you as a very particular type of person. It changes the way you think about yourself.

Praying in tongues is proof, to the speaker, that God is living inside of them. And, more than that, only other Christians who already speak in tongues will understand. All of a sudden, you find that there is something in your life which separates you from the rest of the world. Most people simply won’t understand your new gift, so you hang around with church people more. As a method for getting people to stay in church, getting people to pray in tongues is one of the most effective. There’s none so committed as those who are heavily invested.

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